Furious Dover manager Andy Hessenthaler has hit out at claims that they didn’t want to start the new season.
Whites have had their first National League game of the season against Solihull Moors this Saturday postponed due to a Covid outbreak in the club.
Hessenthaler described the claims as an ‘insult’ and revealed that he’s one of those who has caught Covid.
“I don’t do social media but one thing that has wound me up as people have sent things to me is the suggestion that we are using this situation and here goes Dover again – what situation?” blasted Hessenthaler.
“There’s people dying and I’ve got Covid myself. We were fully prepared to start the season against Solihull.
“We reported it to the league and they’ve called the game off. It riles me. It’s a small minority of people who sit behind a computer but you can’t suggest that we don’t want to start the season.
“I’ve got Covid myself and it’s in the camp. We’ve had five good weeks of building a squad together and unfortunately for us this has come along.
“I know friends who have lost family members from Covid. I’ve got it myself and I’ve had a couple of rough days, even though I’ve been double-jabbed.
“Football doesn’t bother me at the moment though, I just want to get better.
“It’s an insult and I’m not happy. I’ve had a few days where I’ve not felt right. I’ve got some of the symptoms and lost my taste and smell. Hopefully I’ve only had it mildly because I’ve been double-jabbed.”
Dover had 15 matches postponed last season, mainly due to Covid-19, before chairman Jim Parmenter called time on their campaign due to a lack of promised funding after the initial three months of grants.
Off the field the club have reverted back to part-time status, and their punishment for opting out of the second half of the campaign was a £40,000 fine and a 12-point deduction at the start of this campaign.
Many outside Dover feel the punishment was too lenient and they should have been demoted, but Hessenthaler – while thinking the punishment was harsh – is keeping his thoughts to himself and wants others to do the same.
“People think we shouldn’t be in the division and that’s their opinion but we know what goes on at our club and we’ll keep our opinions to ourselves,” said Hessenthaler, who questioned many times last season why footballers were still playing during a pandemic.
“The chairman made that stance and we’ve been punished for it. People need to think about their own clubs instead of making comments about Dover when they don’t know what goes on.
‘Football doesn’t bother me at the moment though, I just want to get better’
“It gives me the hump when you see comments like that. We’ve been through the mill, we did what we did and we got our punishment.
“We’ve gone part-time this season and now we’re going to miss the first game. Yeovil are the same, they’ve got it in their camp, and Wrexham are going to play Solihull on Saturday now instead.
“We worked really hard to build a new squad. This is nobody’s fault, it’s one of those things and we’ll put it behind us.
“It doesn’t sit well when people suggest that. People assume we are using the system but the test results have all gone into the National League
“It saddens me that people think Dover are trying it on.”
Going forward, Hessenthaler will be urging his squad to get their vaccinations.
The former Gillingham midfielder and manager, who turns 56 on Tuesday, will spend his birthday in isolation. But he believes his fitness from years of playing professional sport alongside having both jabs have helped him avoid potential serious consequences of catching Covid.
Dover will now start their season on August 28 away to Maidenhead before hosting Boreham Wood on Bank Holiday Monday, August 30 at Crabble.
“One thing I will be doing is encouraging my squad to get double-jabbed,” added Hessenthaler. “The chairman has said that as well, we need to encourage them to get it.
“The National League are also sending out to all clubs to ask them to encourage their players to get vaccinated.
“We’re in isolation and hopefully we’ll have a couple of sessions next week to prepare for Maidenhead.
“We’ve got to make sure that we all get better first and then we can get ready for Maidenhead and Boreham Wood.
“It’s not helped us in terms of the work that we would have put in during the final week of pre-season. We didn’t have a friendly on Saturday as we were going to have a full session working on set plays, organisation and topping up the fitness levels. Unfortunately we couldn’t do that but we’ll deal with it and cone Maidenhead we’ll be ready for the challenge ahead.”
Read more: All the latest sports news in Kent